Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

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Carlsbad Caverns National Park
IUCN category II (national park)
The cave is well-known for its many calcite formations such as this column and array of stalactites
Map showing the location of Carlsbad Caverns National ParkLocation in the United StatesMap showing the location of Carlsbad Caverns National ParkLocation in New Mexico
LocationEddy County, New Mexico, United States
Nearest cityCarlsbad, New Mexico
Coordinates32°10′31″N 104°26′38″WCoordinates32°10′31″N 104°26′38″W
Area46,766 acres (18,926 ha)
339 acres (137 ha) private[1]
EstablishedMay 14, 1930
Visitors465,912 (in 2018)[2]
Governing bodyNational Park Service
WebsiteOfficial website 
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Criteriavii, viii
Designated1995 (19th session)
Reference no.721
State Party United States
RegionNorth America

Carlsbad Caverns National Park is an American national park in the Guadalupe Mountains of southeastern New Mexico. The primary attraction of the park is the show caveCarlsbad Cavern. Visitors to the cave can hike in on their own via the natural entrance or take an elevator from the visitor center.

The park entrance is located on US Highway 62/180, approximately 18 miles (29 km) southwest of Carlsbad, New Mexico. Carlsbad Caverns National Park participates in the Junior Ranger Program.[3] The park has two entries on the National Register of Historic PlacesThe Caverns Historic District and the Rattlesnake Springs Historic District.[4] Approximately two thirds of the park has been set aside as a wilderness area, helping to ensure no future changes will be made to the habitat.

Carlsbad Cavern includes a large limestone chamber, named simply the Big Room, which is almost 4,000 feet (1,220 m) long, 625 feet (191 m) wide, and 255 feet (78 m) high at its highest point. The Big Room is the fifth largest chamber in North America and the twenty-eighth largest in the world.



For details on the region’s geology, see Delaware Basin.

Capitan Reef[edit]

An estimated 250 million years ago, the area surrounding Carlsbad Caverns National Park served as the coastline for an inland sea. Present in the sea was a plethora of marine life, whose remains formed a reef.[5] Unlike modern reef growths, the Permian reef contained bryozoans, sponges, and other microorganisms. After the Permian Period, most of the water evaporated and the reef was buried by evaporites and other sediments. Tectonic movement occurred during the late Cenozoic, uplifting the reef above ground. Susceptible to erosion, water sculpted the Guadalupe Mountain region into its present-day state.[6]


Carlsbad Caverns National Park is situated in a bed of limestone above groundwater level. During cavern development, it was within the groundwater zone.[citation needed] Deep below the limestones are petroleum reserves (part of the Mid-Continent Oil Field). At a time near the end of the Cenozoic, hydrogen sulfide (H2S) began to seep upwards from the petroleum into the groundwater. The combination of hydrogen sulfide and oxygen from the water formed sulfuric acid: H2S + 2O2 → H2SO4. The sulfuric acid then continued upward, aggressively dissolving the limestone deposits to f

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